From, a brief definition of redemption from a Christian perspective:

Redemption is simply the forgiveness of our sins, and restoration to a
relationship with God. Through his sacrifice, Jesus redeemed us and brought us
into the kingdom of God, rescuing us from the kingdom of sin and darkness.

Recently, I attended worship at a local church that has a heart for reaching the poor and marginalized in our community and the pastor talked of “bringing redemption to the neighborhood.”  I definitely agreed with that thought and I love to think that Habitat’s work fosters redemption by showing the love of God to our neighbors in need.  I also know that there are strong pillars of faith in all distressed neighborhoods, for which I owe a debt of gratitude for helping shape my own faith through the trust and grace they show in dealing with daily struggle and hardship.

But then I considered how we all (me included!) need redemption, and I wondered about the injustice that has caused the poverty that many east Raleigh neighborhoods have had to deal with for decades, even since the establishment of the city.

Could it be that the redemption the pastor speaks of will also come in our own hearts as we realize the injustice that has caused the poverty that many of our neighbors have to endure?  When we look deeper, will we find that we’ve benefitted from this injustice and come to see our outreach as repentance for the structural sin of racism and the economic barriers that arise from that?  That would truly break some new, collective ground!

One of my all-time Habitat heroes is Allan Tibbels.  As a white Christian man, Allan felt called by God to relocate himself and his young family to an economically distressed African-American neighborhood called Sandtown in Baltimore to be a partner in redemption there.  Early on, Allan founded and co-led Sandtown Habitat for Humanity along with his neighborhood partner, Laverne Stokes.  Allan would always speak honestly about the need he as an affluent white man had for repentance for the sins of racism.  His life positively challenged me to embrace the full context of the concentration of poverty in which we work.  Allan passed away this spring, after ministering as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic for over 20 years in Sandtown.  He is missed, but his spirit lives on in Sandtown–not just for the houses he caused to be built, but for the life of true repentance and redemption he lived.

What do you think of this kind of partnership?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.